Breathing for strength training


Breathing for strength training

Correct breathing during weight training, circuit training, CrossFit, Five20 or any other type or MRT (Metabolic Resistance Training) can help reduce the risk of injury, back niggles and increase power output, by increasing intra abdominal pressure which helps support the spine and pelvis.

While there are many methods that exist to stabilise the spine, increasing intra abdominal pressure is one of the best.  It involves maintaining a neutral spine, taking a deep intake of air and bracing, by pressing against the abdominal walland not letting air escape through your nose and mouth, this is is also known as the valsalva manoeuvre.

This method is used for heavy compound movements such as squats and deadlift. Once the lift is complete, the lifter maintains a suitable amount of pressure through the abdominals and takes another deep breath, braces and performs the rest of the lift, lowering or performs another rep. Sometimes you'll see lifters exhale through pursed lips at sticking points.

With lighter loads, you should be able to maintain a suitable amount of abdominal pressure to support your spine and pelvis, whilst breathing deeply.  This takes time practice, and finding a rhythm for the exercise your performing.  Take the kettlebell swing for example, a movement that's posterior chain dominant, requires the flexion and extension of the hip joint, and permanent abdominal pressure, whilst timing your breathing.  Inhale at the top of the swing or on the eccentric part, then exhale on the concentric part (the upward phase). 

How to do it.

1. Engage your pelvic floor muscle (the muscle you use to stop yourself peeing).

2. Take a deep intake of air, that should fill the stomach.

3. Increase pressure by pressing outwards at your abdominals. Like your pressing against a belt.

You should feel you spinal erector muscles engage, and your pelvis should feel more stable.

4. Complete your movement.  Exhale through pursed lips using your abdominal muscles to force air out if you are stuck at a sticking point.

If you are doing a Five20; or some type of metabolic resistance training and the weights are lower, then a slightly different approach is needed.

1. Engage your pelvic floor muscle (the muscle you use to stop yourself peeing).

2. Increase pressure by pressing outwards at your abdominals, like your pressing against a belt.

3. Breath deeply, brace and exhale on the effort.  Some timing and practice will be needed for this.

Some lifters like to exhale during the effort of the lift, but should be done through pursed lips. This is to ensure abdominal pressure remains, and the spine is protected.  This is personal preference and there is no right or wrong way, it really is down to the individual.

If you do Five20 workouts, metabolic resistance training, circuits or CrossFit, then learning how to brace during lifts and workouts is vital. 


Hip hinge


Hip hinge

To put it simply the hip hinge is the flexion and extension of the hip joint.  A vital skill for squatting, deadlifting and kettlebell swings as well as explosive movements such as Olympic lifting and sprinting,  it is also useful in cycling, rowing and pretty much anything else that requires the hip to extend.

For some reason hip hinging is a skill, rarely practiced; and hardly ever taught at the beginners level. Learning this under practiced, yet vital skill can not only add kilo's to your lifts, increase lower limb power, increase glute and hamstring strength it can also reduce the risk of injury.

Hip hinging requires a good amount of neuromuscular co-ordination; to allow your hips to sit back (the hip flexion part) with a minimal amount of knee bend, maintain a flat back and maintain core integrity. Then to extend your hips, your glutes and hamstrings contract pushing your hips forward extending your hips. 

As simple as this movement sounds the amount of neuromuscular control, core stability and focus required is immense, especially when learning.  Once you've mastered the movement pattern, you can then transfer the skill onto many variations of the hip hinge such as , romanian deadlifts and single leg hip hinges.

One of the best ways to learn this movement is to do it with a wooden broom handle, dowel or piece of plastic pipe.  It doesn't really matter aslong as it's light and can run the entire length of your back.

How it's done.

1. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and your toes pointing forward, with your knee's slightly bent. This position should remain the same throughout the entire movement.

2. Engage your pelvic floor, brace and stand tall.

3. Place the dowel on your back, being held in place with your hands.  Ensure it's touching the coccyx and runs up your spine, between shoulder blades and touches your upper back. 

4. From the standing position, sit your hips back remembering to keep your legs straight.  Your torso should flex forward at the HIPS not the waist.  Go as far as you can till you your hamstrings stop you, or you feel the dowel move away from your back.  Stop in this position and feel balanced with your feet flat on the ground and most your weight in your heels, about 70%. 

5. Extend your hips back into the standing position, by pushing them forward. Avoid hyper extending and don't loose core intergrity. 

A few things to look out for.

Flexing at the waist.  If the dowel moves away from the coccyx then you'r likely to be flexing at the waist.  You'll need to re-set and start again.

Bending the knee's. Once you start flexing you might notice your knees bending to help lower the torso, if this happens stop reset and start again.

Extending through the back.  This is tricky to spot on your own, so getting a partner might be useful.  This is when during extension the movement comes from your spinal erectors and not the glutes.  Your partner can spot this by watching very closely and seeing if the initial movement is coming from your back, by noticing if your chest or spine extends first.

To start with, practice 3 sets of 5 reps. Which may seem low but the concentration levels are high, and if you are getting more wrong than right, then five perfect reps seems to be more of an achievable number.  Look to increase reps week on week, until you can perform 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps perfectly. Once achieved you can start adding on additional weight.  

It's a skill that can be practiced everyday, so get yourself a broom and practice, practice, practice.



Difference between exercise and training


Difference between exercise and training

Exercise is something your nan does down the church hall, or in a budget gym, or health club.  It's something the government tells you to do for half an hour a day, or whatever the guidelines say.  Training on the other hand has purpose, direction, meaning, and a goal.  You train to improve something like squatting, running, recover from an injury or whatever it is you do. 

When was the last time you heard an Olympian exercise for the Olympics, or a footballer exercising to be faster, more explosive, stronger or fitter.  If you want to achieve something, you train for it not exercise for it. 


“exercise is physical activity for the sake of it, and training is activity that has a specific purpose”



It's time to start training

Train towards a goal.  

Being healthier and fitter, although very good goals aren't specific.  Think of contributing factors to fitness, like cardiovascular endurance, strength, muscular endurance or flexibility.  Each training phase should focus on a specific aspect of fitness.  The trick is to work on one without letting the other drop in performance.


Training makes you focus on your weaknesses.

Exercising for the sake of it means that if you come across something you can't do, most personal trainers would simply encourage you to try something else.  However, if your training for something you'll simply have to get figure out what the issue is and improve upon it. Take the simple squat.  Although a predominately hip dominant exercise, research has shown that stronger hamstrings can increase your squat.  This means that once your in a phase where you can increase hamstring strength you should focus on it, then return to your squats to increase your personal best.  


Training is recorded.

You should be recording as much as you can.  As long as it's in a language you understand, it doesn't matter if it makes no sense to anyone else.  You can track progress, see what you did right before you hit that personal best deadlift.   Plan specific targets or workouts that you can measure against yourself, that way you can see how much you are improving, or see what areas you need to get better.  


FSTFitness is in the business of training.  We've had people come as casual exercisers, and some haven't made the transition from exercise to training while others have.  We are training you to be stronger, more flexible, aerobically fitter, more co-ordinated, and more powerful.  Ultimately you'll become the fittest version of yourself one training cycle at a time.